Empowered to say ‘No’

Seth Godin writes in his post License to stall about business-to-business sales. He explains that the majority of people you encounter are empowered to stall, to say ‘No’, since they are easier to train and are safer.

The reason this system evolved is straightforward: the yes people are rare in a typical organization, because they have responsibility and power. So they are busy and need to be protected.

I totally see how this works, but Iimmediately thought that this paradigm was equally relevant in the area of Customer Services.

How often is it that – unless we have a very trivial request – the first person we speak to will be able to help us right away? “I’ll just put you through to so-and-so”, or “I need to talk to my manager/supervisor. Can I call you back?” are par for the course.

I am becoming convinced that for any given company, having quality Customer Service is more important than the quality of their product or service. For a large established company, quality Customer Service seems to me to be more important than sales or acquiring new customers. And yet it seems that the larger the company, the poorer the customer service. They have huge outsourced, off-shore, standardised, systems that have you pushing every number on the keypad before you get through to the wrong department, who aren’t able to help you and aren’t able to transfer you to the appropriate person.

These systems are set up to be defensive – the goal is to reduce cost, which means getting rid of the customer as soon as possible. That is not customer service.

Oh, and customer service also includes website usability, IA and quality of your search tool; read Lance Wiggs’ experience with Dell.

I’ve still not heard back from Dell about the dead graphics adapter in my Inspiron notebook, either. But that’s another post.

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